Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Charlottesville International Tri, 7/27/08

A hard day, with a good result -- 3/18 in my AG!

In the four seasons I've been doing triathlons, the Charlottesville International is one of only two that I've done more than once. It's more a point of pride than anything else, really. The course is tough, and late July weather doesn't make it any easier. Last year I fell apart during the run -- 6 miles of hilly single-track -- and I was determined to do better this year.

I got up at 5:00 on Sunday, and after a quick breakfast, threw my gear onto the truck and headed for the course. It's only a half-hour from my house, but there are no assigned racks in the transition area, so the early bird catches the worm as far as primo racking spots. Sure enough, I pulled into the parking lot at 6 AM, and got one of the best spots in the transition area. Hey -- I'll take any advantage I can get. The usual fiddling around ensued, as I placed my gear, then a trip to the men's room, some meet-and-greet with friends at the race, and it was time to head to the beach.

Into the Bathwater:

Water temps were in the low 80s, no wetsuits today. Surprisingly I hadn't raced without a wetsuit since my very first tri, back in 2005, and I was a little nervous about it -- you kind of get used to knowing you'll have the wetsuit on, I guess. The swim was advertised as 1500 meters, a two loop course, but it looked a little too long to most of us on the beach. Finally it was our turn, and the old guys waded out into the water. The horn caught me a bit by surprise, and I was treading water further back in the pack than I had planned on, but after about 50 yards of bumper boat I got some space.

I quickly got into a good rhythm. The course was a very long rectangle, so after a quick turn, it was down the backstretch. It was a dead-flat calm morning, and the lake is small, so there was no chop in the water. Normally I'll sight every 3-4 strokes, but with the calm water I went for 10 strokes or so before sighting. That kept me in a good rhythm, but I quickly discovered that I drift to the left when I swim. Couldn't blame the current today. By the time we started the second loop I began to be passed by some of the faster women swimmers in previous waves. That cured the drift -- when they passed I jumped onto their feet for as long as I could, trusting to their superior navigation.

Finally around the last turn, and we started towards shore. I powered through some lake grass and vines, then stumbled through the mud and jumped up onto the grassy run to the transition area. I crossed the mat and hit my watch -- 30 minutes and change -- that had to be too long a swim. Running up to my bike I saw a friend's bike still on the racks. He's a good swimmer, so I must not have done too bad.

Swim - 30:41 - 9/18 AG (45-49)
T1 - 1:02 - 2/18 AG

Onto the Hills:

A quick trip through T1, and I was on the road. The bike course at Charlottesville is a litle short, at 23.5 miles, but it makes up for it in difficulty. Lots of hills, mainly short steep pitches. While there are a few good areas for getting down in the bars, for the most part you need to be patient. Last year I blasted through the bike like a steroid-enhanced pit bull and left nothing in the tank for the run. I was determined to ride smarter this year.

During the long climb out of Walnut Creek Park I thanked my lucky starts that I was riding a road bike with a triple, after passing several people tacking back and forth across the road on their tri-bikes. Spin away and keep going, I said to myself. I was determined to ride within myself, keeping my gearing down and cadence up on the climbs. After leaving the park, I settled in as I zipped down the two-lane country roads of the course. It was surprisingly quiet -- maybe it was the way the waves had been set up, or maybe I had a good position, but always had plenty of room around me. After about 6-7 miles I was passed by a few riders, none of them in my age group., and I was starting to pick off riders from earlier waves.

The middle section of the course had some good spots for going fast, and I took advantage, but I played it safe on the many climbs. As we turned back the last few miles to the park I continued to keep my RPMs up, and avoided the temptation to attack the last few hills. Turning back into the park, I spun in an easy gear on the long descent back to transition and collected myself. Where was everbody in my AG? Usually there'll be some cat and mouse games on the bike, but I hadn't seen anybody I was competing directly against.

Off the bike and into T2 -- time to go minimalist -- don't need sunglasses and a hat in the woods. Rack the bike, shoes on, grab my stuff and go.

Bike -- 1:15:40, 4/18 AG
T2 -- :40, 2/18 AG

Into the Woods:

The run at C-ville is a beast. Six miles of hilly, tough, honest-to-gosh singletrack. A two-lap course that only briefly peaks out of the woods. Last year I'd suffered major cramps, and had barely got it done in less than an hour. I was hoping for much better. By now it was hot, and the woods held in the humidity like a steam bath.

Even before you get your legs under you there's a steep rocky downhill. My quads are starting to scream already. Then an uphill -- ouch -- was that a cramp? I grabbed a water at the first stop and slugged it down, walking a few steps and collecting myself. Back into the woods, the trail started winding up, but it was gradual and I started to get my feet under me. Better, I started to track down slower runners -- a nice moral boost. Suddenly I was passed by a sprightly 19 year old. She yelled out a "good run" as she skipped by, leaping through the forest like a deer (turns out she finished 3rd overall for the day). She had the right idea -- I relaxed and started flowing through the run, keeping my feet light.

I couldn't keep the feeling going though. Every downhill wound up my quads into a knot, and the following steep uphills made them feel like wooden posts. Finally I was out of the woods, past the finish line, and back for a second lap. More struggles through the ups and downs, until finally I hit the 4 mile mark. There's something about the four mile mark that always encourages me -- only two more to go! I collected myself and got my feet turning over in a good rhythm. Back out of the woods, and there's the finish -- zip up my jersey and try to look good for the photographer.

I'm done. Cooked is more like it -- my clothes are wringing wet, there's dirt and mud on my legs and my shoes are soaking wet, even though it wasn't wet on the trail.

Surprisingly, my run was good for second in my AG, even though I thought I was giving time away to the field. I checked the results when posted, and sure enough, I placed 3rd in my AG -- first time ever placing.

I got a hat...

Run -- 53:44, 2/18 AG
Overall -- 2:41:37, 3/18 AG, 36/101 overall men.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Colonial Beach Triathlon - July 13, 2008

Summary -- 2:10 and change, 5th AG for this "short Olympic" distance tri.

Lengthy report:

This was my first time doing the Colonial Beach Triathlon. A relatively small race, in a "beachy" town on the Potomac river, very flat when compared to races around Charlottesville.

I headed down on Saturday to pick up my packet and get in a short ride and run. The weather was hot on Saturday afternoon, but a nice breeze off of the Potomac kept it tolerable. I checked out part of the out-and-back bike and run courses, then drove over to Debi's house, where she and her husband were kind enough to host me for the night. Pizza and a movie, then off to bed.

4:30 in the morning came quickly, and after a cup of coffee and breakfast, we hit the road for the race site, about 25 minutes away. Our early arrival paid off -- I snagged a primo end spot on the rack in the transition area, then fiddled around endlessly with my gear while I counted down the time until the start. The water was warm, but wetsuit legal, so I took advantage with my short-sleeved suit. My race packet had the wrong color of swim cap, so I got a lot of odd looks and some concerned questions from other racers as all the green caps except me took off in the first wave. After a couple of minutes, I waded in with my group and off we went.

Swim (advertised as 1000 yards, probably around 750-800)

The swim started well. A couple of collisions, then clear water and easy sighting to the first buoy on the triangular course. Turning round the first buoy I could feel swells picking me up and down as I went down the next leg. The Potomac is very wide and salty at this point, wider even than the Choptank at Eagleman, so there was really an "open water" feel to the swim. Stayed on course pretty well, then turned for home. For whatever reason I couldn't sight worth a darn on this leg, and realized after a bit I was drifting downstream, away from the swim exit. I corrected, but I'm sure it cost me a few spots. Hit the shallow water and dophined a few times then ran up onto the pebble beach, down a concrete sidewalk and into the asphalt transition area -- pretty hard on the feet! (13:58 -- definitely not a 1000 yards! -- 8/20 AG)


This flew past -- I thanked my lucky stars for the end rack spot, got out of the wetsuit without too much bother, and ran for the mount line (1:17, 3/20 AG).

Bike (40K)

Transitioning into the bike always feels strange to me. Suddenly my wet body is pedaling away on a bike and my heart's going a mile a minute. I navigated away from the bike start, held up temporarily by an old guy driving a golf cart (they drive them around town in Colonial Beach). In a few minutes I was rolling down the highway, drinking out of my aerobottle and settling in for the ride. The course was a simple out-and-back, with minimal turns, and was well-suited for putting in a fast time. I kept my concentration on the RPMs -- keep the tempo at 90+, go fast without trashing the legs. I jockeyed around a bit with several other riders in my AG through the first few miles -- passed a few and had a few pass me. When it was all done, it evened out pretty well.

After about 6-7 miles we turned right and started climbing. What? There's a hill? Sure enough, a fairly long, gradual climb. Nothing bad, but enough to make you notice. I kept an eye on the RPMs, and downshifted when necessary, only interrupted by the whooshing sound of Debi passing me up. I kept it smooth, and didn't try to be a hero, since she's faster than me anyway. Over the top, and then a sharp left after a short downhill. Another long straight stretched in front of me, and I started to see the leaders coming back. Here's the turn, and I was feeling good. Best off all, it's a net downhill going back to the river.

I kept the tempo up on the return, playing hopscotch with a couple of riders from the Richmond Tri Club. They pass me, I pass them, they pass me, etc. Kept it interesting. As the end approached I took a flyer and started cranking up the RPMs and laying on more speed. It'd been a good ride. A couple of turns past the crowds, a quick stop and back into T2. (1:09:57, 21.3 mph, 8/20 AG)


Smoked this. Racked the bike, helmet/shoes off, shoes on, grabbed my hat and race belt and go! (:50, 1/20 AG)

Run (6 miles)

The run was an out and back 6 miler, following shore on the small peninsula that the town is on. My legs felt pretty good coming off the bike, and I concentrated on my running cadence for the first 5-6 minutes. Check the watch, count my footfalls to 90, check the watch. My rhythm was good, and started to gradually close in on some runners ahead of me. Passed one -- there's a 48 on his calf -- my AG -- yes! Hit the first mile in 7:30, and felt good. Just have to keep this up.

By now it was getting hot. Water stops were available every mile, and I doused myself down and drank each time. As we rounded peninsula, we hit some shady neighborhoods, which helped. At three miles we turned, and I hit a rough patch. My legs started getting tight and the heat started to wear me down. Back to my old trick I went and started counting my cadence. This took my mind off of my problems and I got back into a rhythm. 4 miles, 5 miles, still on pace, and catching a fair number of other runners. After 5 I caught another runner. There's a "46" on his calf -- I've got to get this guy. I pulled behind, and decided to give it a strong push. As I passed his right shoulder I put as unconcerned an expression on my face as I could and picked up the pace, counting my steps. 10, 20 , 30, 40, 50 -- hopefully he wouldn't realize how tired I was and try to come after me. As I hit the final turn I took a look back and saw I was in the clear. As I crossed the finish I was too tired to mug it up for the photographer, but happy when I checked my watch -- 44:36 for 6 miles, 7:26 pace, 5/20 AG.

I'd hoped to go under 2:15, and I did, with a 2:10:36. Good time, and a fun race.